Summer Surprise Days

During the summer before the birth of our fifth child, my husband was going to school and money was tight. Despite our busy lives, we felt it important to spend time together as a family every week. To save money and to provide some variety in our family outings, I began a weekly activity called “surprise day.”

One day a week we planned a surprise activity for our children. Half of their excitement came from anticipating what we were going to do. We have done numerous activities; here are a few that may work for your family:

  • Fish at a trout farm.

  • Make gingerbread (graham cracker) houses.

  • Ride the public bus system to a park and feed the ducks.

  • Create a village of houses in your backyard with cardboard boxes (check appliance and grocery stores for discarded boxes).

  • Visit the zoo.

  • Go bowling.

  • Go on a treasure hunt.

  • Go to the library and help each child check out a book.

  • “Kidnap” Grandma and take her to get a treat.

When we drive to our activity, my husband loves to travel a different route while the children try to figure out where we are going. We have had many summers of these weekly adventures, and the excitement is still there for our children. Surprise days have been fun, can be inexpensive, and have allowed us to spend time together in unforgettable ways.

Debbie Lewis, Marriott Ward, Ogden Utah Mount Fort Stake

[illustration] Illustrated by Joe Flores

Our Family on Film

While my husband attended meetings before church, I needed to keep our five young children content until it was time for us to go. Amusing them with books, puzzles, and games offered limited success. Finally, one Sunday I stumbled across an effective activity—showing a home video. To my delight, the children were so excited to see themselves and other family members on television that they actually sat still for an entire hour! I continued the activity the following Sunday and soon realized that more than watching themselves they loved seeing relatives who live far away. Through this simple Sunday activity my children can feel close to family members they don’t often see in person. And I enjoy having a peaceful hour to get everyone ready for church.

Melissa Wall, Midland First Ward, Midland Michigan Stake

Party by Post

Some 30 years ago my mother started a long-distance, absentee baby shower tradition, beginning with my expectant sister who lived in another state. Just before the due date, Mother held a baby shower in her home, inviting all the nearby relatives without telling my sister. Mother asked everyone to bring their gifts unwrapped so we could admire them at the shower before wrapping them with materials she supplied. We also played shower games, ate refreshments, and had a wonderful time visiting. Mother then packaged everyone’s presents in a large box and sent it to my sister. Since my sister lived in a rural town where purchasing needed baby items was a challenge, the surprise package was a much-needed blessing as well as a loving reminder that we were thinking of her. In recent years we have photographed and videotaped our long-distance baby showers to add an even more personal touch. We have also welcomed adopted children into the family by hosting our party after their adoptions have been finalized. This activity would also work well for bridal showers, birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and many other occasions. It’s also a great way to gather family to prepare that occasional missionary package.

KonaDee Thomas, Heritage Branch, Bountiful Utah South Stake

Family Home Evening Helps: Award-Winning Family Home Evenings

A few years ago our daughter started working on what was then the Gospel in Action Award. To help her achieve one of her goals, we began family night by reciting the Articles of Faith, focusing on one each month. Then when our son became a Cub Scout, we started integrating some of his requirements into our lessons and activities. We soon realized that several of our children’s goals could be accomplished concurrently, yet still result from their own efforts. Together we have achieved a variety of goals, such as serving others, preparing for emergencies, and discussing finances.

The current Faith in God Award, for children ages 8 through 11, continues to offer flexibility for working on goals individually, in groups, or as a family. Awards for the Young Women and Young Men programs can also be worked on together. Parental involvement is key to your children’s success. As you become familiar with their goals, you’ll soon discover a variety of ideas to enhance their efforts as well as your family’s home evenings.

Carolyn Staley, South Bluff Ward, Syracuse Utah South Stake

[illustration] Illustrated by Beth Whittaker